“I have been told to ‘speak English’ on countless occasions”

‘Scottish islanders still face accent prejudice’

Sunday, 21st April 2019, 10:42 am Updated Sunday, 21st April 2019, 10:44 am We often talk about racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ageism and such, but rarely about discrimination towards regional accents. Since moving to Edinburgh to study, I have experienced countless remarks regarding my Whalsay accent, some of which were light-hearted jokes and didn’t concern me, others were needlessly boorish.

“I have been told to “speak English” on countless occasions, but this request simply doesn’t apply to me because I’m not English, nor do I wish to be, and I, among others, take pride in speaking with a strong regional accent”.

The author also comments on the ludicrous accents of the BBC series Shetland. “The fictional crime series Shetland on BBC1 has actors speaking in a Glaswegian or non-Shetland accent, using words such as “aye” which we don’t say. However, their characters are supposed to be Shetlanders. A course-mate of mine told me that he had no idea that Shetlanders speak the way I do, as his only guide has been the BBC crime series. Usually if you obtain a role of people from a different place, you research the accent and try to mimic it. Idris Elba put on a South African accent when he played Nelson Mandela in the film Long Walk To Freedom; Chiwetel Ejiofor spoke with an American accent in the film 12 Years A Slave; and Meryl Streep had a Polish accent in Sophie’s Choice. Why can’t accents such as Shetland accents be represented correctly? Television and film have recently had to diversify in terms of race and gender, so that the people onscreen reflect the viewers at home. Isn’t it time to do the same with regional accents?”

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